Miguel Montalvo, Russell S. Nelson, Ph.D. Graduate Science Scholastic Grant

Russell S. Nelson, Ph.D. Graduate Science Scholastic Grant

The Billfish Foundation’s Russell S. Nelson, Ph.D. Graduate Science Scholastic Grant honors a nationally acclaimed scientist who consulted for TBF for 12 years and served as Director of Florida’s Marine Fisheries Commission for 13 years. With an ability to synthesize science into policy, he could clearly explain the science to non-science thinkers and help to represent TBF in many national and international arenas. TBF could not be more excited to award this grant, as this award provides an additional method for TBF to advance billfish science into the future while honoring Nelson, a man who invested his life to improve fish science and policy. 

Applicants are considered based on several categories including academic accomplishments in advancing billfish science, community service, references, essay submission, and financial need. Recipients are paid directly from TBF and reviewed without regard to race, color, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. 

Miguel Montalvo, Russell S. Nelson, Ph.D. Graduate Science Scholastic Grant

For this year’s winner, TBF is thrilled to announce and congratulate Miguel Montalvo, our inaugural recipient of the Russell S. Nelson Science Grant. 

Miguel embarked on an unconventional journey toward his true passion in marine science and ichthyology. He initially pursued an undergraduate degree in Marketing and Communications, graduating from the University of South Florida (USF). While completing his degree at USF, he volunteered at the Florida Wildlife Research Institute’s (FWRI) fish and invertebrate collection. This experience led him to discover his appreciation for the marine world.

Post-graduation, Miguel was an intern at the Office of Communications of the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. There, he honed his marketing skills while connecting with marine scientists, helping to bridge the gap between scientific research and public understanding.

After his time at Mote, Miguel interned at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). Tasked with promoting the museum’s new fossil hall, he had the opportunity to collaborate with scientific experts and expand his knowledge across diverse disciplines.

NMNH would eventually hire Miguel to enhance outreach efforts by investigating their public audiences. Concurrently, his passion for ichthyology led him to volunteer at the museum’s Division of Fishes, where he contributed to various research projects and deepened his understanding of marine life.

Inspired by his diverse experiences, Miguel began graduate studies at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). Under the mentorship of Dr. Eric Hilton and an advisory committee that includes Dr. Jan McDowell, who is a close collaborator of TBF, Miguel transitioned from the Master’s to the Ph.D. program, focusing his research on the evolutionary biology and development of billfishes.

In his doctoral research, Miguel delves into the intriguing evolution of billfishes, focusing on the development of rostral elongations, their fossil history, and the understudied area of billfish dentition. By conducting comparative assessments among living and extinct billfishes and their relatives, and investigating their tooth development and replacement processes, Miguel’s research aims to contribute to our understanding of billfish systematics, feeding behaviors, and potential advancements in materials science applications.

Miguel’s dedication to marine science, coupled with his interdisciplinary approach, exemplifies the spirit of the Russell S. Nelson Science Scholarship Grant. We eagerly anticipate the contributions Miguel will make to the future of billfish research and conservation. Congratulations, Miguel!